homas Partey’s early strike via a goalkeeper error helped Ghana secure a 1-1 draw with hosts Nigeria in Abuja on Tuesday, as they became the first African side to book a place at the World Cup in Qatar.
Ghana advance to the finals on the away goals rule after the first leg finished goalless on Friday, and will take part in their fourth World Cup after appearing in three in a row between 2006 and 2014.
The visitors took the lead at the Abuja National Stadium on 10 minutes when Partey’s speculative shot from outside the penalty-box squirmed under goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, who should have made a comfortable save.
Nigeria equalised via a penalty as Denis Odoi clattered into Ademola Lookman in the box, and William Troost-Ekong’s thunderous spot-kick nestled in the top corner, but they could not find the winner they needed.
Nigeria had qualified for six of the previous seven World Cups dating back to the United States in 1994, and their absence from this year’s tournament will spark an inquest from the country’s football authorities.
But for Ghana, and their newly appointed technical advisor Chris Hughton, it is a major triumph in a qualification campaign in which they never really impressed and had looked a shadow of the side that reached the World Cup quarter-finals in 2010.
They defended for much of the 90 minutes in Abuja, rarely looking threatening after they scored, but also faced few alarms themselves from a Nigeria side devoid of attacking threat.
Nigeria thought they had a second when Victor Osimhen scored, but the VAR correctly ruled he was offside in the build-up.
Emmanuel Dennis headed wide for the home side in the second-half and Osimhen sent a bicycle-kick past the post, but it was largely comfortable for Ghana in the closing stages as they held on to the dismay of most of the 60,000 supporters in Abuja.
Well, what a night that was – a hugely decisive one for both Ghana and Nigeria.
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